Religion Today Summaries, December 22, 2003

Compiled and Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 22, 2003

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.  In today's edition:

  • YMCA Flyer Alledgedly Violates 'Separation' Issue, Barred from School District

  • Two Christian Relief Volunteers Kidnapped in Colombia

  • Radical Islamists Target Christians

  • Kentucky Ten Commandments Ruling Reflects 'Judicial Hostility,' Attorney Says

YMCA Flyer Allegedly Violates 'Separation' Issue, Barred from School District
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A California school district has barred YMCA promotional flyers from its campuses. The Panama-Buena Vista School District in Bakersfield claims flyers promoting a YMCA basketball camp violate the so-called "separation of Church and State" because they include the group's mission statement: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.  But CEO John Bagala says, "The one thing we're not going to do is ever compromise our mission statement or our Christian values." "We're hoping that the school districts will come to their senses and allow us to pass out our fliers again, as we have in the past," Bagala says, adding that the district is unfairly silencing his group.  He explains that even though the group's mission statement makes it clear the YMCA promotes Christian values, it does not discriminate. "That means [our programs are available to] believers, non-believers, [and] believers of other faiths -- we don't discriminate about anybody coming to the 'Y.'  But we are a Christian-based organization, and we're not ashamed of it," he says. Although the YMCA is not considering legal action, Bagala says he is unhappy with the censorship because 80% of the children in his program are from the Panama-Buena Vista district.  Other area school districts have not raised objections to the Y's flyers. The head of a Christian ministry is encouraging local YMCA's not to revise their mission statement when asked to by public school districts.

Two Christian Relief Volunteers Kidnapped in Colombia
David Miller, Compass Direct

On Wednesday, December 17, a band of armed assailants entered a community farm operated by evangelical Christians in Sincelejo, Colombia, and kidnapped attorney Juan Castillo Urueta, 31, and Jhony Jose Rios Anaya, 39, a local businessman. According to witnesses, two of the seven abductors wore combat fatigues similar to uniforms used by insurgent groups operating in the area. The farm where the kidnapping occurred belongs to the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace of the Council of Churches of Colombia. Castillo's mother, Maggie Urueta Ozuna, helped establish the farm in 2001 to help rural families displaced by political violence to raise food and cash crops for themselves. Mrs. Urueta was in the United States on matters of farm business when the kidnapping occurred. "Ask God to spare my son's life and the life of his friend," the distraught mother told Compass. "Juan is a tremendous support to the brothers who are displaced. Pray that these men will respect the lives of Juan and Jhony, and that they will be home for Christmas."

Radical Islamists Target Christians
ASSIST News Service

Several Christians and Westerners have recently been killed in violent attacks on Christian workers in Somalia while a Christian delegation attempts to make itself heard at Somali peace talks. During 2003 several cases of violent attacks against Christians and westerners took place in Somalia as part of a new wave of persecution. On 5 October an elderly Italian nun, Dr Annalena Tonneli, who had served in Somalia for thirty years founding a TB hospital, orphanages and schools, and was known as "the Mother Theresa of Africa", was murdered in Borama, Somaliland, by two armed men in front of the hospital. In another attack on 20 October, a British couple in their sixties, Richard and Enid Eyeington, working for SOS Children's villages in Somaliland were shot dead by several gunmen in their home inside the school compound while watching television. Also, in November a Kenyan Christian working for the Seventh Day Adventist mission in Gedo, South West Somalia, was murdered by Islamist radicals. The attacks appear to be deliberately anti-Christian and anti-Western. In February 2003 a radical Somali Islamist group, Kulanka Culimada, based in Mogadishu issued a press release in which they called for all Somali Christians to be treated as apostates from Islam who ought to be killed. This was in response to a bold move by the tiny persecuted Christian community in Somalia that had sent several delegates to peace talks currently being held in Nairobi (initiated in 2002) to demand the right of freedom of religion and assembly, political representation, and free movement. The Christian representatives were shouted down by Muslim delegates who insisted Somalia had no Christians and who declared Islam to be the official religion of Somalia. This seems to mirror prejudices widely held by Muslim Somalis which justify violence against Christians, both indigenous and expatriate.

Kentucky Ten Commandments Ruling Reflects 'Judicial Hostility,' Attorney Says
Fred Jackson, Agape Press

The head of a Christian legal group is denouncing Thursday's federal appeals court decision against Ten Commandments display in Kentucky. A federal appeals court has ruled that three Kentucky counties violated the Constitution by posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings, even though the religious laws were accompanied by other historical documents.  The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman's 2001 order to remove the displays from public view. Coffman said in her ruling that the purpose of displaying the Ten Commandments was "religious in nature." She said the fact that the displays began with just the Ten Commandments and only later added the other documents "bolstered the reasonable observer's perception of the state endorsement of religion." But Steve Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy describes this latest ruling as "one more decision that confirms the pervasive judicial hostility toward religion, Christianity in particular."